You know that joke about the guy in the flood? No? It goes like this:
Guy’s in a flood. He says a prayer asking God to rescue him. The waters rise. He escapes to the roof of his house, still praying. The waters rise. People in a boat come by. He says: “No thank you, God will rescue me.” The waters rise. A plane flies over, dropping a rope ladder. He shouts: “No thanks, I’m all set! God will rescue me!” The waters rise. Rescuers rappel from a helicopter. Again he turns them away, explaining: “I have faith! I’ve said my prayers! God will rescue me!”
The waters rise. The guy drowns. On meeting his maker, he expresses bafflement and outrage. “Lord,” he says. “I had faith. I prayed, asking you to rescue me.” And God replies, utterly confused: “Wait – what happened to the boat, the plane and the helicopter?”
We are, as a nation, collectively standing on the roof of the house as the flood of gun deaths rises around us. We’re not in danger of drowning; we’re drowning right now. As of this typing, more than 13,000 people have died of gun violence this year alone, more than 600 of them children.
For the record, I am not among the people mocking politicians who sent their “thoughts and prayers” to the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas, after the latest mass shooting. As a person of faith, I am not against sending thoughts and prayers to anyone who suffers. Go right ahead. I do it pretty frequently myself, and I’ve been on the receiving end in my own times of need. But I’m pro-gun control, and I’m also bloody outraged that so many of these same politicians have continually failed to follow up their prayers with sane gun legislation that might save countless lives.
Prayers mean nothing without action. God can’t rescue us from the flood without our help. We need to roll up our sleeves and pitch in — or as my late husband used to put it, “We need to meet God half-way.” And if we’re serious about solving the scourge of gun violence in this country, we have to go beyond politically timed condolence tweets to actually talking, actually listening, actually doing something about a crisis of epidemic and existential proportions.
I happen to believe in a loving creator, but I also happen to believe that we’re put on this earth to be the arms and legs and ears and voices of that same loving creator. It’s not enough to say you believe; you have to act. It’s not enough to simply pray; you have to listen. Prayers are answered when any and all of us walking this planet — souls of every stripe and bent and faith system and secularity, whether devout in our faith or our atheism — respond to the “still, small voice” prodding us toward sanity, wisdom, compassion, peace. And then take measures to realize it.
It can happen. We can do it. We can make it off this roof, but only if we put faith into action. So to everyone with an ounce of influence in the halls of government, I say: Go ahead and pray. Pray for the grieving. Pray for the nation. Pray that this never happens again. But after you’ve prayed, please, just get off your asses and enact true and comprehensive gun control, okay? Do you understand? Be the answer to your own prayers.